For most of the 2014 season, Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners has been the undisputed choice to win his second AL Cy Young award. 

But Corey Kluber has produced an incredible second half for the Cleveland Indians, making the decision for voters much more difficult than anticipated.

Both pitchers are deserving of the award.

Felix leads the AL in ERA (2.07), WHIP (0.91), quality starts (27) and batting average against (.200). In a 16-start stretch from May 18 to August 11, Felix pitched no less than seven innings and allowed no more than two runs.

At the All-Star break no other candidate could touch Felix, especially not Kluber.

Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs compared first-half WAR for both players in a recent article. Felix’s 5.0 WAR in the first half was almost an entire two wins higher than Kluber’s 3.3 WAR. The Mariners’ ace was running away with the Cy Young while Kluber was barely on the radar.

Yet Kluber has managed to produce an equally remarkable second half.

The Indians’ right-hander posted a 3.7 WAR after the All-Star break, over two wins better than Felix’s 1.2 WAR. While Felix failed to maintain his record-breaking form, Kluber posted a 1.88 second-half ERA to emerge as a dark horse candidate to challenge King Felix.

As the season enters its final weekend, Kluber has actually surpassed Felix in FanGraphs WAR (7.0 to 6.1). Kluber actually leads all MLB pitchers in WAR, even than the great Clayton Kershaw.

Kluber has made his case with prodigious strikeout numbers. With his devastating curveball, he leads the MLB in strikeouts. Opposing hitters are hitting just .094 against his curve while striking out 118 times. Although Felix leads Kluber in ERA by almost half a run, Kluber has been able to bridge the gap due to these strikeout numbers. 

Voters love to use ERA when making their decisions on the Cy Young. But Fielding Independent Pitching has become a more reliable statistic when evaluating a pitcher’s performance. FIP takes into just those elements a pitcher can directly control (strikeouts, walks and home runs) while assuming league averages for elements more influenced by chance (hits, sequencing of those hits, etc.).

Felix has benefited from playing in a pitcher0friendly ballpark at Safeco Field while Kluber has needed to be much sharper at the more-volatile Progressive Field. 

Then there is the defense.

Kluber has posted an incredible pitching season while playing with the very worst defense in MLB, while Seattle has been the third-best defensive team in baseball. Felix has been a recipient of stellar defense, making all the difference in the Seattle ace’s lower ERA. Due to these differences, it is no surprise to find Kluber as the AL leader in FIP.

Not to take anything away from Felix, but to view the AL Cy Young race as a foregone conclusion would be a mistake. Felix started fast, but Kluber has caught up to him down the stretch. Others are noticing Kluber’s momentum. 

But how will the voters cast their ballots?

It really should come down to a very slim margin for whomever wins the award. But I expect Felix to take home the honors. But why? Yes, he has produced a fantastic season filled with jaw-dropping stats, but so has Kluber. So what will be the difference?

Ultimately voters gravitate towards lower ERA numbers, which Hernandez has. He also is the more recognizable star so his season has been a bigger blip on the national radar than Kluber’s has.

Felix Hernandez deserves the AL Cy Young. But so does Corey Kluber. There should be no problem with either winning the award. Hopefully, the voters acknowledge the equally fantastic season of the less-known Kluber, allowing the best man to win the coveted award. 

Read more MLB news on